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VENICE 2021 Competition

Paolo Sorrentino • Director of The Hand of God

“It’s not my fault; this is how Naples looks”


- VENICE 2021: The Italian director shares some thoughts on his youthful memoir of Naples and the number of times it’s been compared to Fellini’s Amarcord

Paolo Sorrentino  • Director of The Hand of God
(© La Biennale di Venezia - Foto ASAC/Jacopo Salvi)

Currently having a very busy time of it presenting his competition-entered new film The Hand of God [+see also:
film review
interview: Paolo Sorrentino
film profile
, premiered at the 78th Venice International Film Festival, director Paolo Sorrentino has just returned to the Lido after a quick Telluride sojourn to share some thoughts on his youthful memoir of Naples and losing count of the number of times it’s already been compared to Fellini’s Amarcord.

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Cineuropa: This morning, a lavish documentary about Ennio Morricone was screened. Did you ever consider his music for any of your films?
Paolo Sorrentino:
Ah, he was much too good for me! No, seriously, I never considered him. He was great, but it never crossed my mind for my films. Different styles.

The title of your film is taken from a quote by Diego Maradona, who also plays an important part in these times in Naples, and subsequently also in the film. When did this title come to you, and how did you deal with the complaints about using it?
Suddenly, it just came up in my mind. From then on, it just felt like a great title for the movie. There were some protests, yes, from what I suspect were some people around Maradona who wanted to make some easy money. They never sued me, of course, because they didn’t really have a case.

The Hand of God has been compared both to Fellini’s Amarcord and to your own The Great Beauty [+see also:
film review
interview: Paolo Sorrentino
film profile
. Are they valid comparisons?
Only this week, I have heard the Amarcord comparison more times than I can count. But my film is more about a real life, whereas Amarcord is a series of funny memories, many of them invented, and it shares recollections of joy and pleasure. My film is very realistic, with some memories clearly not connected with pleasure. The Great Beauty is also another, and different, film. There, I looked for the very special places of great beauty in Rome. Here, I show Naples in the simple and everyday life of my youth.

You certainly visit some fantastic places here as well.
It’s not my fault; this is how Naples looks.

And you actually also put Fellini in the film, looking for faces, because reportedly, the best ones could be found in Naples. Were any of them from actual Fellini auditions back in the day?
I don’t think so, unfortunately not. But I have this marvellous casting director, who just walks the streets and picks people up. And she finds the best ones.

What we don’t get, possibly refreshingly, is any Camorra-related storyline. Fabio, your alter ego, does become friendly with a smuggler, but is never a part of his operation. Did you ever have any similar experience yourself when it came to “the wrong side”?
It’s absolutely true that Naples, with its mixed layers of people, makes it easy for someone from the bourgeoisie to fall into murky activities. Whether or not it happened to me is irrelevant. I will not list what’s true or not in the film.

At the end of the movie, the director Fabio meets Antonio Capuano, who is very real. And in 1998, his film The Dust of Naples carried your screenwriting credit. Is this, in effect, the first Paolo Sorrentino film?
Not really. I was one of the co-writers, and Capuano was the main writer. But it was my very first job in the film world. I entered a script contest and won, and Capuano took me on. Never could I have imagined where it would take me.

The 1980s you depict feel decidedly innocent. Were they really, in your memory, or is there some conscious romanticism at play after all?
The 1980s for me were more innocent, more stupid, and maybe funnier.

Which touches upon another comment in some reports, regarding a certain kind of possibly crude humour, sometimes concerning beautiful, naked women. Any thoughts on this?
Any thoughts on this will be derived from a direct quote by that great author Lillian Hellman during the un-American hearings of McCarthy: “I cannot and will not cut my conscience to fit this year's fashions.”

What are your future film plans at the moment?
At the moment, I have absolutely no idea.

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